TOKYO -- Three men under arrest on suspicion of murdering and robbing an 80-year-old woman here may have been linked to a fraud ring and been involved in scam cases in Tokyo, Aichi and Hyogo prefectures, sources close to the investigation said.
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)'s first criminal investigation division suspects that the trio may have repeatedly committed robberies using information provided by the fraudster group. The group allegedly specializes in so-called special fraud cases, in which mainly elderly people are defrauded by suspects over the phone and through other means of communication.
The suspects -- Tatsumi Komatsuzono, 27, Hiroki Sue, 22 and Yuta Sakai, 22 -- stand accused of killing and robbing Kuniko Kato in Tokyo's Koto Ward on Feb. 28. Investigative sources said Sue's fingerprints matched those found at the scene of a separate fraud in the capital in late January.
In the January case, a man posing as a police officer called the victim, saying, "Your cash card has been illicitly used." The victim then handed their cash card to the man upon his visit to their home. The man subsequently returned a fake card to the victim, but an envelope holding the card bore Sue's fingerprints. Although the man looked differently from Sue, police believe Sue was likely involved in the case in some way or other.
Sue and Sakai, both from Nagano Prefecture in central Japan, had connections to a fraud ring and reportedly took the role of picking up cash obtained through fraud, according to a male who knows the two men. "The two were heavily indebted," the man told the Mainichi Shimbun.
According to investigative sources, Sue and Sakai are suspected of involvement in a fraud case in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, while Sakai allegedly had a hand in a separate fraud case in Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan. The MPD's first criminal investigation division is poised to investigate the links between these cases and the crimes in Tokyo.
In Kato's case and a Feb. 1 incident in which some 4 million yen was robbed from a residence in the Sasazuka district of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, the victims had received suspicious phone calls asking them whether they had cash at their homes prior to the attacks. Based on evidence such as shoeprints left at the scenes and security camera footage, investigators suspect that Komatsuzono and Sue were also involved in the Sasazuka case. The two cases had several points in common, such as the victims being tied up and their intercoms recording visitors' images destroyed.
Analysis of the suspects' mobile phone records and other information suggest that a separate individual had made the phone calls to the victims.
While Komatsuzono, Sue and Sakai have denied the allegations against them, the MPD's first criminal investigation division assumes that the trio likely committed the robberies to quickly make off with money by using information provided by the fraud ring.
"A special fraud group is implicated behind these series of crimes. It can also be assumed that there was someone who acted as a liaison between the group and the perpetrators. Whether investigators can identify such personnel is a key to getting to the bottom of the cases," said a source familiar with the investigation.
(Japanese original by Shota Harumashi and Hironori Tsuchie, City News Department, Natsumi Hara, Nagano Bureau)